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In 1935 Techwood Homes became the first public housing project built in the United States. The federally subsidized housing, located immediately northwest of downtown Atlanta and sandwiched in between the Coca-Cola Company's headquarters and the Georgia Institute of Technology's campus, replaced a fourteen-block slum area known as Techwood Flats. Residents of the Flats lived in cheap rental housing that dated back to the 1880s, and they labored either in the nearby manufacturing and warehousing district on the west side of Atlanta or for low wages downtown. Even before the Great Depression hit, impoverished residents of the Flats endured overcrowded, unsafe, and unsanitary housing conditions.
In 1933 Atlanta real estate developer Charles F. Palmer drove through Techwood Flats on his way to work and saw conditions deteriorating. Learning of the limited dividend housing project cr
Shortly after U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, authorization for federally subsidized housing shifted to the new
Tenants Burge and Stevens) designed fireproof brick buildings on concrete slab foundations. Rent included heat, electricity, and water, and the units had the latest electric appliances, as well as closets in each room. Two-story row houses and three-story garden apartments covered less than one quarter of the twenty-two-acre grounds. On the remaining property, residents enjoyed lush landscaping, playgrounds, park benches, and open space, and they had easy access to an administration building, six stores, recreational facilities, and a health clinic. Techwood Homes became a source of pride for its new residents, as well as the model studied and observed by sociologists, housing experts, and architects.
Nonetheless, Techwood Homes set the standard for public housing, and its success led to congressional passage of the Housing Act of 1937, which permanently established a federally sponsored low-rent housing program.
Techwood civil rights movement; the complex was 50 percent black within six years of integration. From their nearby headquarters, Coca-Cola executives feared that crime would rise when Techwood became an all-black project. In 1974 Paul Austin, Coca-Cola's chief executive officer, proposed clearing Techwood, relocating its residents to the outskirts of the city, and replacing the property with moderate-income housing and shopping. Newly elected Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson shelved the plan, fearing backlash from the African American community. Instead, Jackson garnered federal money throughout his tenure in office to renovate the Techwood structures, but this did little to stave off the drug epidemic that plagued the public housing community in the 1980s. By the early 1990s Atlanta officials were unable to combat the chronic drug trafficking and gang violence at Techwood.
Ironically, the city revisited the Coca-Cola redevelopment plan for Techwood twenty-five years after it was proposed. After winning the Centennial Olympic Games bid in 1990, city leaders worried about what international guests and athletes would think about the high crime and poverty at Techwood Homes. The mayor's office, working with the Atlanta Housing Authority, Georgia Tech, and the city's Olympic committee, created the Olympic Village Community Redevelopment District. The plan, which called for the redevelopment of Techwood Homes into housing for athletes, converted the 1,195 units of low-income housing into 800 luxury units for mixed-income residents. Most of the original buildings were razed. Many Techwood residents, wishing to remain in their homes, felt powerless to challenge the plan.
After the 1996 Olympics ended, only seventy-eight of the original Techwood Homes residents returned to live at the newly renovated site, which was renamed Centennial Place.
Media Gallery: Techwood Homes